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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My beach reads

One of my favorite things about beach vacations (aside from the beach) is the reading time it affords. On my latest vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, I had books loaned to me from two of my friends. One was “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, I know, EVERYONE has read that book. But I’m never one to read books when they are all the Oprah-induced rage.

But as I perused the stack piling up near my bed, I decided it looked well suited for the beach—somewhat light yet lightly introspective.

I didn’t want to like the book because it seemed so, well, popular. It was one of those books that women around the pool or beach would ask, “So where is she now?” “Do you like it?”

But as I read my way through Italy, India and Indonesia, there were some themes that resonated with me—the need to spend time doing for oneself, the desire to travel authentically, the pursuit of beauty and pleasure, the need to forgive myself for my many shortcomings, the need to find some spiritual connection and the quest to keep life in some kind of balance.

There were some beautiful passages in the book as well as a number that I found whiney and obnoxious. But it made me think and it made me feel and in the end, that’s what I seek in a book.

Here's a passage near the end that I found moving:

“I saw that my heart was not even nearly full, not even after having taken in and tended to all those calamitous weeks of sorrow and anger and shame; my heart could easily have received and forgiven even more. Its love was infinite.

I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds. Because if even a broken and limited human being could experience even one such episode of absolute forgiveness and acceptance of her own self, then imagine—just imagine!—what God, in all His eternal compassion, can forgive and accept.”

The other book I read was “Little Bee,” by Chris Cleave. This was a superior book in terms of voice, plot, character development and sheer language. The author writes from the point of view of two women in a way that rings authentic. His language is just gorgeous right from the very first paragraph.

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I could visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead—but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names.”

What are you reading? What moves you?


KW said...

W - that same paragraph from Little Bee was also one of my faves; set quite a tone for the book right from the start...glad you enjoyed, and happy to re-read that paragraph! --K

Wendy A. Hoke said...

Thanks, KW!!! Hope you're doing well.